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Symphony
ZUILL PLAYS ZWILICH WITH SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, March 28, 2021
The Santa Rosa Symphony took a cautious step toward the return of live music in their March 28 virtual concert by sharing the stage with an actual live soloist rather than an apparition. Star cellist Zuill Bailey was still masked, and his back was toward the equally masked and plexiglassed orchestra...
Chamber
ECLECTIC CELLO PIANO VIRTUAL RECITAL FROM TOMKINS ZIVIAN DUO
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 28, 2021
The venerable 41-year Redwood Arts Council Series in Occidental has joined the virtual recital world with low budget but artistically satisfying programs, mostly using videos filmed in the performer’s residences. March 28 saw the Tanya Tomkins-Eric Zivian duo present an eclectic program from their ...
Symphony
SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY HITS THE SWEET SPOT
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, February 28, 2021
Small orchestras can inhabit a sweet spot between chamber ensembles and full orchestras, but how well they hit that spot depends on the composer's orchestration and the players' ability to project. That dependence was on full display in the Santa Rosa Symphony's Feb. 28 concert, which featured three...
Chamber
NOVEL OBOE-HARPSICHORD RECITAL FROM AIKEN DUO IN UKIAH
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 21, 2021
Oboe and harpsichord recitals are a rare North Bay event, even in a pandemic environment where a formal hall setting isn’t available. So it was a delight Feb. 21 to experience on the Ukiah Symphony’s website a recital by Symphony oboist Beth Aiken and harpsichordist husband Tom. The Aiken home vis...
Symphony
A HEALTHY MIX OF TRANSCRIPTIONS AND ORIGINALS FROM THE SR SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, January 24, 2021
Transcriptions and ascending arpeggios were the order of the day on Jan. 24, as the Santa Rosa Symphony performed uplifting works by Bach/Webern, Ellen Taaffe Zwilich, Marianna Martínes and Mozart. The concert video was made in Weill Hall on Jan. 9. The first transcription was Webern’s 1935 renderi...
Symphony
HEROIC EFFORT FROM THE SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, December 13, 2020
December 13 was a rainy day, perfect for huddling indoors and watching a prerecorded “live” performance by the Santa Rosa Symphony. The program was expansive, with music from the 18th through 21st centuries, and the mood was festive, in keeping with the holiday season. There was something in the fea...
Symphony
MASKED SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY CARRIES ON BRILLIANTLY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, November 15, 2020
In some ways the Santa Rosa Symphony’s Nov. 15 concert on YouTube resembled a Conceptual Art performance from the 1970s. On display were about 30 masked orchestral musicians playing six feet apart from each other on stage, some of them separated by plexiglass barriers. In the 1970s, the concept behi...
Chamber
SPLENDID STRINGS IN A SUNLIT GARDEN
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, November 1, 2020
A sun-drenched autumn afternoon, a Marin County garden and six superb string players from the Santa Rosa Symphony were manna from heaven to a pandemic-weary audience starved for live music. The sextet of Santa Rosa Symphony musicians performed to a small group of 20 Nov. 1, the day after Halloween....
Chamber
EXAMPLARY QUARTET PLAYING IN MARIN GARDEN CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, October 22, 2020
Taped video concerts have pretty much dominated the recent fare for classical music fans, but sporadic live music making can still be found in the North Bay with outdoor chamber music. Of course with the obligatory social distancing and often decorative facial masks. Four San Francisco Opera Orc...
Chamber
VIDEO CHAMBER MUSIC FROM LINCOLN CENTER IN GREEN'S BROADCAST
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, October 17, 2020
Along with hosting its resident the Santa Rosa Symphony, Weill Hall has contracted to produce sporadic virtual programs of classical music, and began Oct. 17 with a charming three-part concert from the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center in New York. Hosted with comely introductions by CMSLC di...
CHAMBER REVIEW
Roe-Thorsteindøttir Duo / Sunday, February 1, 2015
Elizabeth Joy Roe, piano; Sæunn Thorsteinsdøttir, cello

Cellist Sæunn Thorsteinsdóttir

KNOTTY CELLO MUSIC THAT WAS (MOSTLY) EASY TO LOVE

by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 1, 2015

Notable cello concerts have recently graced Sonoma County with Edward Arron’s Oakmont recital and Yo Yo Ma’s sterling solo outing in Weill. So it was not surprising that Sæunn Thorsteindóttir walked onto the Schroeder Hall stage Feb. 1 with pianist Elizabeth Roe and found a packed house of non-Superbowl fans.

In the first half contrasts abounded, beginning with the charming Beethoven Variations on “Bei Männern” from the Magic Flute and ending with the demanding Britten Sonata from 1961. The seven Beethoven variations served as an excellent warm up work, the balances good and the cellist using chaste vibrato and a secure and radiant bow style. Acoustics in the hall gave the instrument a pellucid sound, carrying easily to upper rows of seats.

The Britten is a tough work to love with sad, lyrical and restless sections combining in its five movements. Using the score as she did throughout the recital Ms. Thorsteindóttir played the long first movement with intensity, ending it with an extended tranquil fermata that was echoed by Ms. Roe’s gentile right hand tremolo. The aggressive pizzicato technique in the Scherzo was juxtaposed by demanding bursts from the piano, a question and answer dialogue that was compelling.

A plodding dirge characterized the following Elegia with bracing washes of sound and broad notes from the cello and hushed up-and-down octave jumps from the piano. The playing in the fourth movement caught the bouncy and banal nature of the music that turned at times to eerie and strident cello notes high on the fingerboard.

Skittish outbursts permeated the playing in the concluding finale and the tempos were fast but never out of control. The unison playing was faultless. The applause was substantial but not protracted.

Rachmaninoff’s early Sonata in G Minor, an easy piece to love, took up the entire second half and received a generous and grand reading. Ms. Thorsteindóttir doesn’t command a big outgoing sound, but she has a salutary tone quality and was ready to defer pride of place to her partner in many sections. The Rachmaninoff piece needs a pianist with a big technique and profile, and Ms. Roe was up to the task. As is well known with Rachmaninoff there are a lot of notes (difficult ones too) but if some are skipped or smudged the texture isn’t quite right. The pianist’s playing occasionally had this result and covered the cellist with extended use of the shift pedal and lavish employment of the damper pedal.

The second and third movement performances were highlights of the concert, especially in the provocative scherzo where the players were on fire with inspiration. The themes overflowed with passion. In the famous Largo Ms. Thorsteindóttir’s first entry following the lovely piano introduction was opulently colored and her conception throughout was subtle and restrained.

The playing of the weighty themes in the finale lacked clarity but was never wanting in momentum and potency. This music animated the audience of 250 and a standing ovation resulted.

Ms. Thorsteindóttir announced an encore, the short slow movement from the Chopin G Minor Sonata, Op. 65. Here the playing was captivating, each phrase integrated in a shapely and prismatic whole.